Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Girding Up For A New Year

In Jesus Through Middle Eastern Eyes: Cultural Studies in the Gospels, Kenneth Bailey writes about the importance of “girding up” for service.

"The robes of the Middle East (worn by both men and women) nearly touch the ground. They were and are worn without belts. The hot climate makes loose fitting clothing the nearly universal preference. Any strenuous activity requires the wearer to tie a belt or rope around the waist to keep the bottom edge of the robe off the ground and out of the way. The Hebrews were instructed to tie up their robes on the ever of Passover in order to be ready to travel (Ex. 12:11). Elijah belted himself in preparation for running before Ahab’s chariot (1Kings 18:46) and Jeremiah was told to do so as he took up his ministry to the nations (Jer. 1:17). Ibn al Tayyib observes this practice in daily life around him and writes, ‘The person who wears a long robe, without a belt, is not equipped to travel or prepared to work’” (2008:369).

The parable in this passage of Scripture has a two-fold meaning. One is to remind us to be ready for the Lord’s return. Yeah, I know, we say that every year, but one day Jesus will come again, because he said he would (Jn 14:3). May we not be complacent or caught unaware, may we be vigilant, belted up, as we anticipate His soon return. Secondly, this is a passage that reminds us we must dress for success, sort of. Dressing properly, in this context, is dressing for work, to be engaged in service. People not dressed for success are slothful, not about the business of life.

It’s a new year that bears down upon us. Christmas with family, breaks from teaching is over. In a few days we sprint into a new decade

As I look at my 2011 calendar, travelling to India three times, Ukraine twice, Kenya and perhaps Russia, I realize that it’s time to gird up service, for work. May those who read this blog have a Happy New Year as you cinch up your belt for the task that God has given you to do.